With their 17-3 win over Illinois, the Gophers took the next step in the Jerry Kill era and became bowl eligible picking up their sixth win of the season.
Kill continued project "Gophers turnaround" with a ground and pound philosophy as sophomore running back Donnell Kirkwood rushed for 152 yards and scored the two Gophers touchdowns.
The first came on a 3-yard run in the third quarter that broke a 3-3- tie. The run capped a 11-play, 51 yard drive. His second came on the back of a Illini turnover after quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase fumbled on a third-and-1 play at the Illinois 29 yard line. Kirkwood scored on a 12-yard run late in the fourth quarter securing the Gophers sixth win of the season.
Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson had a rough day, dodging Illinois blitzes all afternoon and throwing for just 78 yards in the game.
The Gophers are bowl eligible for the first time since 2009 and with two games remaining, on the road against Nebraska and home against Michigan State to close the season, have a chance to improve their bid for a bowl.
Illinois has lost 12 straight games in the Big Ten and have lost seven straight overall. The Gophers pushed their Big Ten record to 2-4 and 6-4 overall.